Father Knows Best....maybe not always.

One of the great things about generational differences is how parents over the last 30-40 years have outgrown  the Leave it to Beaver and Father Knows Best and The Donna Reed Show TV family models of the 1960's.  They may be modeling other things today, which may be another blog post, but those ridiculous TV shows put enormous pressure on the women of that genre to be the picture pretty wife, with picture pretty kids when the picture pretty (but dog-tired) dad walked in from a tough day at work.

Then you get to our family.  My mom was the picture pretty stay-at -home wife and worked at being that way when the big husband walked in the door.  That worked great until she would have an exceptionally bad day and then let her husband be the big bad dad.  She'd explain the disasters du jour, then hand him the hair brush or belt and he'd get to beat us.  I was always a bit puzzled about the warm welcome and then the bad news scenario.  Don't get me wrong, she was capable of using those tools.  It was done not super hard but enough to make loud noises and to hurt the recipients.

Mom's go-to punishment was the old wash-the-mouth-out-with-soap exercise.  Most of my life I've been known to be rather quick with a quip, and even at an early age that would quickly elicit the "don't you use that tone with me" threat.  I imagine those experiences must be the reason I have not had any inclination to eat soap.  I may eat my words, but not soap.   

In retrospect that is right up there with "You kids eat those (canned) peas or I'll set the timer."  What the timer has to do with eating is beyond me.  Was it going to get those peas to the starving kids in China any quicker?

When the timer rang...nothing had changed, really, except the peas were buried under some other food on the plate and/or discreetly dropped into the bottom of a half full glass of milk.  The trick was to take the dishes to the sink myself, letting her see the results she wanted, while carrying the milk glass in my other hand so it hid the outline of the peas peeking through the milk.  Quick - pour the milk-peas down the sink and wash the plate. I guess I was lucky that milk was lower on the food chain list (literally) of items that required timer-setting. 

My kids may correct me but I don't think we had those events in our house.  Yep, very seldom, a whack on the butt got their attention.  The timer was for cooking, not eating; canned peas were banned from all pans; and soap was not a mouthwash.   

Back to today...a close friend told me a story about a mutual friend's creative mothering of her teen-aged son.  So I called up our mutual friend to get it straight from her.  And she gave me permission to share it.

Most agree she and her husband have the perfect kid.  He's the only kid. No issues, good student, good golfer on the school team, good buddy.  But he was getting a bit cranky and demanding and well, not so pleasant.

She decorates for various holidays bringing out the appropriate themed collection of stuff, really kind of June Cleaver-like, and very sweet.  This Easter she made up the expected Easter basket for the kid.  Some traditions die hard...even when you are a teenage boy/man.  This time she had an oversized plastic egg in the basket, with all the trimmings.  A penny was taped to the outside of the egg. with a note saying "Good luck!"

The boy/man opened up the egg and inside were two lottery tickets!  How adult!  Scratchers!  So he scratched the first one.  Once, twice, three times.  A winner!  Not a measly winner.  A BIG winner! Five thousand bucks!  He went crazy and the dad was kind of stunned and the mom amazed!  Boy/man scratched the second ticket: one, two, three!  Another winner!  Another five thousand bucks!  10K with six scratches on two lottery tix.

They were going nuts in the house.  The money was spent within moments.  All things were possible. The son and dad were jumping around crazy.  Then mom spoke up.  Oh no....not so fast. Did you look at the back of those tickets? Better check it out.  Oh, too bad.  Those are fake.

WHAT?  Yep, modern-day-mom popped that mega money balloon real fast.   What do you mean they're fake?  Well, let's see.  Boy/man needed to learn some facts of life.  He can't always get what he wants (sung by the Rolling Stones).  Cockiness doesn't have a place in or outside their home.  Life isn't easy.  Nothing comes free.  Work for what you want.  Welcome to the real world.  That's a shame.

This wasn't humiliating, it was humbling.  Emotions ran high, then low, then recovered.  Laughs ensued.  Boy/man was actually impressed enough with the practical joke that he took a photo of the tickets and posted it on Facebook...and quickly the story was told to many.

Lesson....it didn't require a beating or soap to get the kid to wake up.  It took guts, a few bucks, creativity and humor, with some trick lotto tickets culled at the Dollar Tree store.

To my dismay and delight, today I saw a "coming soon" in the window of a strip mall store in our town.  Dollar Tree.  Hhmm.  May have to check it out.

In answer to the question posed by a current credit card ad campaign "What's in your wallet?"...maybe it will be lottery tickets from the Dollar Tree store, reserved for very special people.

And thanks, mutual friend, for a great story.

Live well,



  1. I don't remember why, but you did make us eat soap once. Only once. It was awful.


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